Different Sharks team set for underdog role vs. Blues

Different Sharks team set for underdog role vs. Blues
April 9, 2012, 5:10 am
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The Sharks got the wrong first-round opponent. Such is the finding of my unofficial twitterstraw poll, conducted during the Sharks regular-season finale. Roughly 75 percent of respondents and yes,there were more than four believed San Josewas better off against Vancouver than St. Louis. Which is interesting, given that the Canuckssummarily bounced San Josefrom the playoffs last season. Thenagain, maybe thats the rationale it certainly was Jamie Bakers on SharksPregame Live. A little extra motivationnever hurts come playoff time.No matter, much to Bakes and my tweeps chagrin, itsSharks-Blues in round one. On thesurface, Armageddon-in-waiting Team Teal.St. Louiswon all four regular-season meetings, allowing a TOTAL of three goals in theprocess. Yikes.There is a school of thought that suggests past performanceis not necessarily an indicator of future results. Im sure I saw that in the fine print of afinancial management brochure. Or in thecast bios for Celebrity Apprentice.Regardless, that school of thought has pretty much failed when appliedto the Sharks. Two seasons ago, San Jose got blitzed by Chicago during the regular season, then sweptby the Blackhawks in the playoffs. Lastyear, Vancouverowned the Sharks during the regular-season, and you know what happened afterthat. So why should we expect thisgo-round to be any different?Many simply dont.They say Blues in five games.They say St. Louisis too fast, too deep, too stingy, too well-coached, too darn frustrating forthe Sharks to deal with. And they saythat because, well, thats exactly what they saw during the four meetings thisseason.I wish I could argue with that logic, but I cant. I saw the Chicago result coming. I saw the Vancouver result coming. And I have long feared that a St. Louis pairing wouldbe pretty much a disaster. Arguably theworst possible matchup in the entire Western Conference. But then theres this, the one glimmer of hope I can offerto fans (and to my admittedly skeptical self): the Sharks are a different team nowthan the one which last faced St. Louis on March 3rd. Thatteam was in the midst of a five-game losing streak. Thatteam, in fact, lost an incredible 11 out of 13, going 5-34 (14.7) onthe power play during that stretch. That team didnt scoreas many as four goals for 20 straight games.That team managed justone regulation road win in a full months time. Contrast that with the new and improved (really, was thereany other way to go?) version. Fourstraight wins and seven of nine to end the season including gutty,character-revealing road triumphs at Dallas and Los Angeles. Six for the last 20 (30) on the powerplay. Wins over Boston,Detroit, Nashville,Phoenix, and L.A. (twice) in the final three weeks. That said, the Sharks will have to play that well and thensome to win this series. Joe Pavelskiwill have to remain scorching hot. LoganCouture will have to get scorchinghot. Patrick Marleau will have to hitsomebody. And yes, score. (Did I mention San Jose is 18-3-3 this season when Marleaulights the lamp?) TheWinick-Wingels-Desjardins line will have to keep buzzing around in freneticfashion. Marc-Edouard Vlasic will haveto play like the all-star he resembled in the seasons first half. Brent Burns will have to become the force healmost is. Antti Niemi will have to keeppace with the Blues outstanding goalie duo.Put simply, every man will have to bring the energy, the desperation,and (perhaps most importantly against this particular opponent) theattention-to-detail that brought the Sharks back from late-season life supportand got them to within one victory of a division title.Embrace the underdog role, boys. Unfamiliar territory to be sure, but maybe itwill suit you. Jamie Baker thinksso. And I am sure at least 25 of mytweeps agree.